Make the Grade for Going Back-to-School

Parents have been testing me with questions about how to make sure their children get a good and healthy start as they head back to school at the end of the month.  Let me take on that assignment and provide some information on that topic.    

1. First make sure your child is in good health by having a pre-school checkup and by making sure immunizations are up to date.  If your child does have a medical issue such as an allergy or chronic illness such as diabetes or asthma, make sure you review this with the school nurse and your child’s teacher so an emergency medical plan is in place while your child is at school. 

2. Make sure your children are given a good breakfast either at home or  through a school breakfast program since they will be more alert and perform better with a morning meal in their stomachs.    

3. Ensure that the bedtime routines are in place even before school starts, since concentration is improved if a child gets a good night’s sleep.  Even teenagers should get at least 9 hours of sleep a night.

4. Try to meet your child’s teacher before the year begins.  If you can’t do so because of work commitments, write to him or her to introduce yourself and your child.  This establishes a channel of open communication that will hopefully continue throughout the year.  In addition, don’t forget to read all the notices you child brings home about events and activities at the school so you can stay informed.

5. If your child is uneasy about the first day, point out all the positives, such as seeing old friends, meeting new ones, reminders of fun times at school last year, and fun times that will be sure to occur this year.  Have your child go with a friend to school so they don't feel isolated.

6. Make sure your child’s backpack is wide with padded shoulder straps and a padded back.  The pack should never weigh more than 10-20% of your child's body weight and should never be carried by only one strap. 

7. Finally, don’t forget to include your children in the planning of their school schedule.  For example, your children can help decide whether a snack comes before, during or after homework is done. Having them pick out the school supplies with you may also make them more excited about the upcoming school year. This creates a family partnership that will help ensure homework and learning is a fun and regular part of your family’s schedule.       

Hopefully tips like this will allow you to go to the head of the class when it comes to making sure your child gets a great start this school year. 

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids